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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Transnational Criminal Organizations the most existential threat to our Hemisphere

February 6, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Transnational Criminal Organizations the most existential threat to our Hemisphere

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took aim at transnational criminal organizations in a speech at the University of Texas in Austin, referring to these criminal groups, which include drug cartels and the ultra-violent MS-13 gang, as the “most immediate threat to our hemisphere.”

“The most immediate threat to our hemisphere is from transnational criminal organizations,” Rex Tillerson said in his speech. “In their pursuit of money and power, [they] leave death and destruction in their wake. As humans, weapons, opioids, and other drugs are smuggled, law enforcement and civilians are the targets.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was in attendance as the secretary of state told those in attendance, “Americans do not see the day-to-day violence that is – violence that is common in other parts of our hemisphere. But U.S. demand for drugs drives this violence.”

Rex Tillerson added that the opioid epidemic in the country shows “how interconnected our hemisphere is.” The response he believes is “shared approaches to address these challenges.”

The man said he is in conversations with Foreign Secretary Videgray of Mexico to address how to fight the threats caused by the groups. “We must take approaches to disrupt their business models – models of cartels which operate much like any business organization that maximizes their value chain from feedstock to manufacturing to distribution to sales,” he continued.

Tillerson stated that “Dismantling TCOs is not a diplomatic issue. Obviously, it requires integrating the skills and expertise of law enforcement to interdict shipments of drugs, attack the revenue streams and the weapons feeding TCOs, and track down and prosecute the middlemen who enable them.”

The partnership between the U.S. and Mexico is referred to as the Merida Initiative. It concentrates on “improving security and the law.” The U.S. is helping in the effort, and Mexican law enforcement and judicial systems are being strengthened.

Specifically, the U.S. is providing equipment, canines, and training to assist with inspection and apprehension, and is providing “tools to eradicate opium poppy production, tighten border security, and disrupt trafficking – not just in drugs but humans.”

He added, “By improving cross-border communications, we make the border safer.”

Secrertary Tillerson noted that Columbia, the world’s largest manufacturer of cocaine, has also been an active partner. Columbian authorities destroyed the highest number of coca fields (130,000 acres) last year since 2010. With assistance from the U.S., they also seized close to 500 metric tons of the drug.

The Secretary of State advised that there is still much work to do. Coca fields have increased to over 460,000 acres in 2016.

Tillerson said he is working to decrease the effect TCOs have on Central America via the Alliance for Prosperity. Growing their economies and institutions will help reduce the hold that these organizations have in these communities.

The event was hosted by the Clements Center for National Security and the Robert Strauss Center for International Security.

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